The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

November 24, 2013

Local family opens their home to foster children

By STACY MILLBERG - smillberg@starbeacon.com
Staff Writer

JEFFERSON — Lindsay Fuentes always knew she wanted to be a foster parent, but it wasn’t until she met her husband, Chris, that she actually got the chance to do so.

The couple had planned on adopting, but decided to become foster parents first. For the past eight years, Lindsay and Chris Fuentes have welcomed a number of children into their home.

“We’ve had a lot of kids in eight years,” Lindsay Fuentes said. “For the past eight years, we’ve always had a foster child.”

Not only has the Fuentes family fostered children, they have adopted as well. Their sons, David and Cody, were foster children in their home for about a year when the couple decided to adopt them and they are not ready to stop just yet. The couple is hoping to adopt the little boy that has been in their home since he was three months old.

November is National Adoption Month and Tonia Burnett, director of Ashtabula County Children Services, is hoping more people will become interested in welcoming foster children into their homes.

There are currently 30 children in permanent custody in the county. Children Services is hoping to have 12 adoptions finalized by the end of the year, Burnett said. Every year Children Services does something special for its adoptive families to celebrate National Adoption Month. This year, each family received family portraits.

The Fuentes’ case worker, said the nice thing about the family is they just incorporate the kids into their home. There is never an odd kid out.

“You never know who the foster kids or adoptive kids or biological kids are because everyone is treated as their own,” she said.

In the state of Ohio, there are 2,611 children available for adoption. More than 1,000 of those children are 12-years-old or older, Burnett said.

“Everyone wants the newborns but that doesn’t always happen through Children Services,” she said.

Burnett said, fortunately, most of the foster families in the county are adoptive families as well.

“Once they have the kids, they keep them, if that’s what is needed,” she said.

Burnett said trying to keep a good supply of families is not easy, but most families that come into it, stick with it. There are currently 40 adoptive/foster families in the county and Burnett said they are all full.

“We never run out of kids, unfortunately,” she said. “There is definitely a need.”

The Fuentes family has seven children in their home right now. The couple has two biological children, two adoptive children and three foster children. They also have two grown children who do not live at home anymore.

Lindsay Fuentes said there a lot of challenges that come with being a foster and adoptive parent. Each of the children have special needs and most of the time, those needs are unknown until they are in the care of the foster parents.

“You just don’t know ahead of time,” Lindsay Fuentes said.

Chris Fuentes said visitations with the children’s biological parents are sometimes difficult as well.

Juggling schedules for all of the kids, working with each child’s case worker and of course, money, also present some challenges, Lindsay Fuentes said.

But at the end of the day, the rewards far outweigh the challenges, she said.

“They all do some amazing things,” Lindsay Fuentes said. “You see so much growth, even if you only have them a short time.”

Lindsay Fuentes said one of their foster children, who was only with them a short time, still calls her twice a week to let her know how she is doing.

“Occasionally I will run into a kids we fostered that have gone home and now that they are older they will remember things that you didn’t think were a big deal at the time but were to them,” she said. “Like going to church for the first time. They will remember that the first time they went to church was with us.”

Cody, one of the family’s adoptive sons, said he was happy to be adopted because now he has aunts and uncles and cousins.

“I was in a bad family,” he said.

Lindsay Fuentes said Cody told his aunt that when he got adopted he didn’t just get a mom and dad, he got a whole family.

Children Services will be offering another session of classes in the spring for anyone interested in becoming a foster parent. Each session consists of 12 three-hour classes. Foster parents also need to be recertified every two years.

Burnett said there is no cost for the home study and adoption process through Children Services as there is with international and private adoptions.

“The purpose of the classes is so people know what they are getting into,” she said.

Anyone interested in becoming a foster/adoptive parent can contact Children Services for more information.